Sunday, 16 August 2015

GE2015: PAP reveals Sembawang GRC line-up

PAP 'respects voters' wish for choices'
Party does not take political support for granted, says Khaw Boon Wan
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2015

Voters' desire for opposition in Parliament and choice at the ballot box is a reality the People's Action Party recognises and respects, its chairman Khaw Boon Wan and returning candidate Ong Ye Kung made clear yesterday at a press conference in Sembawang GRC.

Mr Ong, who was part of the PAP team that stood in Aljunied GRC but lost to the Workers' Party in the 2011 General Election, said that politics is no longer as predictable as it used to be.

"I don't think people want total dominance. Therefore, ministers can lose their seats," he said, referring to his previous running mates: former foreign minister George Yeo, former second minister for transport and finance Lim Hwee Hua and former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed.

"So, if you are prepared to come into politics and try to do something for residents, understand that this is the situation. Do it with your heart and soul, with your eyes open. And if you face a loss, never let one loss become a defeat," he said.

This is why even though the PAP did well in Sembawang GRC at the previous election, winning with 63.9 per cent of the vote, Mr Khaw said they do not take their political support for granted.

"Every new term, there will be new voters and the mood of previous supporters may also change.

"So we have to always work hard for every vote and the support of our constituents," Mr Khaw, who is National Development Minister, told reporters at the session in Sembawang's Swami Home for the elderly needy, where he unveiled the new five-man slate for the GRC.

Two of his team members are familiar faces: his fellow GRC MP Vikram Nair and Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak, whose Canberra ward is part of the GRC after the last electoral boundaries review.

Mr Ong, 45, and newcomer Amrin Amin, 36, were introduced while Ms Ellen Lee, 58, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Hawazi Daipi , 61, will leave politics.

Singaporeans, too, should not think that the country's success comes easily, said Mr Khaw.

Any success can be eroded easily if a country does not have good politics, he said, pointing out that other countries have "gone backwards". "We think politics has a lot to do with it. For example, if corruption is rampant, if politics become money politics whereby huge amounts of money have to be raised to fight in an election... corruption and cronyism come about," he said.

Singapore does not have a culture of money politics because of laws put in place by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to limit campaign expenditure and make it compulsory to account for every cent spent in an election.

In this spirit, the PAP chose the Swami Home for yesterday's event because it found the rent for the venue affordable, said Mr Khaw. "This is a political culture which is fairly unique to Singapore and let us appreciate and protect that political legacy," he said.

No matter which party wins, as long as every political party protects this ethos by putting forward candidates of good character, Singapore's future will be safe, he said.

Character is the key quality the PAP looks for in its candidates, said Mr Khaw, who described his Sembawang GRC teammates as having their hearts in the right place.

"We look for people who are honest, with high standards of ethics and integrity and are passionate about wanting to help others."

He welcomed the National Solidarity Party's plan to contest in the GRC, saying it was important to give voters a choice at the ballot box.

He hoped the NSP would disclose their plans and candidates for the GRC soon to give voters a chance to interact with them.

He said: "Democracy is a contest of ideas.

"Let the best ideas prevail and let the stronger team win."

Announced our Sembawang GRC line up this morning. There will be continuity and change. Current MPs, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and...
Posted by Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday, August 13, 2015

Housing market much cooler: Khaw
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2015

The hot housing market that was such an issue in the 2011 election is much cooler now, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, expressing relief that the measures put in place have paid off.

"What I shared at my first meeting with my MND (Ministry of National Development) colleagues was, let us try hard to achieve a soft landing of the housing market within four years," he said yesterday at an event to introduce the People's Action Party's election line-up for Sembawang GRC.

"Two years ago when prices began to peak and then began to come down, believe me, I was one of the most relieved."

Mr Khaw had taken over the difficult portfolio after the previous election. In the last few years, the Government rolled out a slew of measures to cool the property market, including the additional levy and loan curbs such as the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty and the Total Debt Servicing Ratio Framework.

It also ramped up the supply of new HDB flats in recent years.

However, Mr Khaw said that the Government would continue to monitor the situation and external environment closely as a soft landing "may suddenly become a hard landing".

There may also be a different housing election issue brewing.

Mr Khaw was asked yesterday if the defects in new flats might crop up as an issue in the coming general election.

Gripes over poor finishes and fittings at some Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats, such as Trivelis in Clementi and Centrale 8 in Tampines, which were built by private-sector developers, have made headlines this year.

Replying in Mandarin, Mr Khaw said that the issue of defects was a perennial one.

Recent complaints may give the impression that the quality of homes has deteriorated but, Mr Khaw said, this is not the case.

Citing scores under the Construction Quality Assessment System, Mr Khaw said the Housing Board's average score had been improving. It scored close to 90 last year, outperforming even some private homes built by developers.

And he stressed that the Government would continue to assist home owners, even if the flats were built by private developers.

"What is important is that builders and contractors are responsible, and fix areas that are unsatisfactory... You don't have to worry - as long as your demand is reasonable, we will help you."

'To ensure others have the opportunities I had'
The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2015

Amrin Amin, 36

Occupation: Corporate lawyer at Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP

Family: Single. He is the second of four siblings.

Education: Bachelor of Laws from National University of Singapore and Master of Laws from Columbia Law School

Hobbies: Movies, reading autobiographies and collecting newspapers during milestone events

Why politics?

It's very important that we keep this exceptional system going. I've been given lots of opportunities to develop myself and it is a result of deliberate policy to develop our people. It's important that people who have benefited from the system step forward to play their part in making the system better.

When someone asks you, "Can you serve?", it is difficult not to. As a grassroots volunteer and having met many residents, I am very, very impressed and humbled by people who have very limited means but give so much of themselves.

When you have received so much and you meet people of limited means who have gone out to serve, you wonder: How can you say "Oh, sorry, someone else should do it?" You have to step up and do it.

Why you?

Because I am willing to serve and I would like to help.

I'm willing to listen, and I hope to make a difference and hope to improve the lives of residents, of Singaporeans.

What issues will you focus on?

Social mobility.

We see social mobility slowing in many parts of the world, Singapore included.

We have a system that has enabled me to have so many opportunities and I'd like to be a part in making sure that the future generations have the same - if not better - opportunities.

Favourite spot in Singapore?

Changi Airport. Other than the fact that it's air-conditioned, it also has a very nice feel to it.

People returning to Singapore and people leaving, there's this celebratory atmosphere.

There's a lot of sentimental value because when I was young, I used to study a lot there.

PAP's full slate to have fair share of women
By Wong Siew Ying and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2015

The PAP may be fielding an "all boys band" in Sembawang GRC, but National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the full slate of candidates for the party will have its fair share of women.

While noting that the all-male group was not ideal, he stressed that the party "goes all out" to persuade capable women to join politics.

"If you look at the picture today in Parliament, of all the 80 PAP MPs, 18 are ladies. And later on, when the full slate is announced, I am quite sure you will see that the percentage continues to improve," he said at a press conference yesterday where he introduced the GRC's line-up.

His team was left with only men after the retirement of its only female representative, two-term MP Ellen Lee, 58.

Apart from Mr Khaw, 62, the anchor minister for the constituency, the team comprises corporate lawyer Amrin Amin, 36; Keppel Corporation director of group strategy Ong Ye Kung, 45; and MPs Lim Wee Kiak, 46; and Vikram Nair, 37.

Yesterday, Mr Khaw thanked Ms Lee for her dedication to helping residents, especially vulnerable families, over the past 10 years.

"Ellen puts her heart and soul in whatever she does... Residents took to her very readily because she really personifies dedication and compassion," he said.

For instance, Ms Lee worked hard to deal with residents' transport woes, chairing a taskforce that worked with the Land Transport Authority to introduce new bus routes and improve the frequency of service.

Ms Lee said she is leaving politics to make way for new faces.

"I should leave at a time when I have produced results in what I do," she said, adding that she will continue to help various voluntary welfare organisations.

Her replacement in the Woodlands ward, Mr Amrin,told reporters that he joined politics to "pay it forward," and he wants to see more Singaporeans from ordinary backgrounds coming forward to serve.

"The system here has enabled me to have so many opportunities," said Mr Amrin referring to his scholarship from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to do a master's in law at Columbia University.

"I'd like to have a part in making sure that the future generation has the same, if not better, opportunities."

Having come from humble beginnings - he grew up in a three-room flat with his blue-collar parents - he said he had an "ordinary life blessed with extraordinary people in an exceptional country".

The highest-profile addition to the Sembawang GRC line-up unveiled yesterday is Mr Ong, who lost at the polls in 2011.

He said he has learnt a lot from his battle with the Workers' Party in Aljunied GRC last time around. "(Serve residents) with your heart and soul, and with your eyes open," he said.

A former top civil servant, Mr Ong was widely tipped in 2011 to be an office-holder if elected.

He left the civil service for the labour union in 2008, then joined Keppel in 2013.

Asked about the difference between working in the private and public sectors, he said in Mandarin: "A home-grown company has made the achievements it has, because it lives and breathes its business. Singapore has the same story as Keppel - it needs passionate people to succeed."

Sembawang to get hawker centre, swimming complex
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2015

New facilities such as a swimming complex and hawker centre will greet residents in Sembawang town in the next few years.

These much-wanted amenities will further transform Sembawang GRC, which People's Action Party chairman Khaw Boon Wan described as "a land of kampungs becoming a modern town".

Mr Khaw, the Minister for National Development who leads the five-member GRC team, announced these plans to cheers from about 60 residents who were having a dialogue with him and fellow GRC running mates yesterday.

The swimming complex will be part of a building cluster with a hawker centre, polyclinic, childcare and eldercare centres plus other community facilities. It will be located in Old Nelson Road and next to Admiralty MRT station.

The aim is to get the swimming pool and hawker centre ready by 2018, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, who is in charge of the project, told The Straits Times.

Public consultation on the project starts tomorrow and will last about six months, added Dr Lim, whose Canberra ward will be part of Sembawang GRC after the latest electoral boundaries review.

He said that the biggest challenge is preserving the famed greenery of Sembawang.

"We want to minimise chopping down trees, and preserve Old Admiralty House as a heritage building on top of Admiralty Hill," said Dr Lim.

Explaining the long wait for the project's launch, Mr Khaw said "sufficient critical mass" was needed first.

"In the last few years, we stepped up the new Build-To-Order flats in Sembawang town, with thousands of flats being built... It let us begin to plan for a swimming complex for Sembawang town."

Other upcoming facilities include an upgraded bus interchange in Woodlands town.

Residents of Sembawang GRC will also have the country's largest general hospital, with 1,800 beds, when the Woodlands General Hospital opens in phases from 2022.

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